Today marks the beginning of Pride month. For the next four weeks, brands all over the world will express their support and allyship by changing their profile pictures on social media to incorporate Pride flags. Storefronts will announce their inclusivity with colourful displays of representation. And major networks will continue to kill off their LGBTQ+ characters in award-winning shows.
This is a good time to reflect.
We’re living in a world where most global brands are becoming more vocal about diversity and inclusion. And yet, we’re facing regressive policies from countries that claim to lead the world in equality. The UK is refusing to outlaw transgender conversion therapy. The US is facing unimaginable setbacks to equality: the Don’t Say Gay bill in Florida; the potential overturning of Roe v Wade; and the horrific prospect in Texas of classing parents as child abusers if they give gender-affirming care to their transgender children. Elsewhere in the world, 70 countries criminalise same-sex relationships (11 of which impose the death penalty).
While I love seeing my feed covered in Progress Pride flags, this global context means virtue-signalling isn’t enough. We all have to take a stand and we have to take action.
Action can start with simple steps, and Pride month is a good time to set behaviours that will last year-round.
At The Social Element, I founded our Employee Resource Group (we call it an Elemental Resource Group), Proud, which sets out resources for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer and intersex team members, and the allies who support them. The idea is to promote inclusion through education and participation, and we create a safe space to learn from each other and to share our experiences.
It’s open to everyone across the agency, and we have two thriving channels which both have incredible support: ‘Belonging at work’, which focuses on the needs of our LGBTQ+ community within the agency (which I champion); and ‘From ally to advocate’, which equips our allies throughout the agency for action (this is championed by our Insights Director, Sherry Wilcox).
I wanted to create the kind of resource that I wish I had available to me when I first came out.
A place to celebrate inclusion, spotlight important days in the calendar (like trans day of visibility), share links to external resources such as how to use the right pronouns, and give people information to help them be true advocates. We have had some amazing and moving responses, from employees who now find it easier to come out or to be themselves, to people who want to be supportive parents to a child who’s LGBTQ+.
This is the kind of initiative that any organisation can put in place, and there are other, easy-to-implement actions that make a real difference.
Give people the space to be themselves, starting by creating a culture where pronouns are asked about and respected. Audit and take steps to change the gendered or binary language that’s become so much a part of our everyday lives. Organise donation drives. Review your healthcare plans to see if they include policies relating to gender affirming healthcare or therapy. Think about where you’re sending LGBTQ+ people on business travel – are they welcome there or are they at risk? And, if you’re working for a TV or film network – please, please stop killing off your LGBTQ+ characters.
These are all important steps to take which actively support your LGBTQ+ colleagues, employees and communities. Support starts with action, not just words. And action can start with small steps, that together, add up to something big.
If you want to make a start by changing your language, have a look at a couple of posts I wrote for The Social Element blog, on how brands are using inclusive language in marketing campaigns; and ways you can start using more inclusive language in business.